NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. – Federal drug conspiracy charges have been brought against the proprietor of a New York City day care facility after a one-year-old boy died and three other toddlers were stricken with suspected opioid poisoning.
Grei Mendez, the 36-year-old owner of the center, and her roommate, Carlisto Acevedo Brito, 41, are accused of being complicit in a conspiracy to supply narcotics that led to the death of Nicholas Dominici and sickened three other children at the Bronx facility named “Divino Niño.”
According to federal charges, Mendez and Brito knowingly allowed the distribution of fentanyl from their Bronx day care facility that ended in a fatal incident. The duo is said to have worked together from July to September.
Mendez’s attorney, Andres Manual Aranda, insists she was completely unaware of any drugs being in the facility. He stated that she promptly informed emergency services when she began to note abnormal symptoms in several of the children at the facility.
Substantial amounts of fentanyl were found stored in playmats used by the children, according to the complaint written by a Drug Enforcement Administration agent. Large-scale drug packaging equipment was also found in the same daycare’s hallway closet.
Detectives have detailed some peculiar incidents prior to the call to authorities. Mendez reportedly made three different calls before officially reaching out to the emergency services: one at 2:39 p.m. to another daycare employee, and two to the man believed to be her husband.
Surveillance footage exhibited some further suspicious behavior. Minutes before the arrival of emergency services, Mendez’s husband was seen entering the daycare premises empty-handed, only to exit two minutes later with two shopping bags. Official Complaints describe this as a move to remove evidence before their anticipated arrival.
Phone records have shown Mendez attempted to conceal her tracks. Over 21,000 messages were deleted from an encrypted messaging application where she communicated with her spouse. It’s alleged that just before the law enforcement arrived at the scene, she informed her husband about the ongoing investigation.
Law enforcement officials are still looking for Mendez’s husband as they continue to investigate, according to Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. “We’re going to make sure we get it all the way back to the source,” Williams told a news conference.